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The Cardinal Secretary of State’s Letter to the President of the “Giuseppe Toniolo” Institute of Higher Studies

On the Occasion of the 96th ‘Day for the Catholic University’ – September 20, 2020

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Here is a translation of the Letter that the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, sent to H.E. Monsignor Mario Delpini, President of the “Giuseppe Toniolo” Institute of Higher Studies, on the occasion of the 96th Day for the Catholic University, held today on the theme “Allies for the Future.”

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 The Cardinal Secretary of State’s Letter

From the Vatican, September 11, 2020

Most Reverend Excellency,

The traditional day dedicated to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart is held this year in a very particular context, marked by a pandemic that is conditioning the life of the whole of humanity. The impact of the infection on social life has made necessary the reorganization, for health reasons, of the formative system in all its orders and grades. The university world was also constrained to modify profoundly the management of its academic activities, passing from the traditional frequentation of locations to IT and digital media, which allow one to operate remotely.

In face of such a scenario, the theme chosen “Allies for the Future” assumes new meanings and implies peculiar responsibilities. In fact, it appears, in addition, as a privileged area to elaborate effective answers and to compare, at different levels, the consequences of the work carried out, precisely in the moments of greatest critical problems for the country, stemming from the infection. In a particular way, the Athenaeum, founded by Father Agostino Gemelli and his collaborators, can offer an original and precious contribution, thanks to its high scientific competencies and elevated professional capacities, corroborated by an ethical commitment at the service of the common good and of the Christian vision, aimed at promoting an integral human development.

To confirm this perspective we can recall with gratitude the academic and health personnel of the A. Gemelli University Polyclinic, which took on the responsibility, with great generosity and competence, to receive and take care of thousands of people affected by COVID-19. A consolidated capacity to unite advanced scientific research, efficient health organization and ethical rigor make of this excellence of the Athenaeum of Italian Catholics a paradigmatic expression of the educational task of a Catholic University.

No less important, however, are all the other realms of University formation, in a great Athenaeum, which brings together a good twelve Faculties. Each realm of learning is called to make a contribution because this situation, source of so many critical problems, can also produce effects of virtuous renewal of the society. From the economy to finance, from jurisprudence to social sciences, a re-thinking of the criteria of development imposes itself, which can no longer be sources of discrimination and inequality in the access to goods and protections, including the realm of health. Thus from philosophy to languages, from the sciences of formation to psychology, it is also urgent to recover the centrality of the human being and to redefine his responsibilities in a society in rapid change, where enormous challenges connected to the environment, to education, to migrations call for analyses and inspired innovative solutions for the integral good of the person, in justice, in fraternity and in peaceful coexistence among peoples. The most technical ambits, such as the physical and mathematical or the agrarian, also become ever more central in building a common home that is truly the home of all and in which each one can dwell in a fitting way.

These are the aspects on which work has to be done if we really want to be “Allies for the Future,” and to make a significant turning point in humanity’s journey. In the formative processes, in particular in the context of a Catholic Athenaeum, to be “allies’” requires some specific attitudes: knowing how to weave fruitful woofs and wefts with the social and ecclesial fabric; to value the gifts of all, and to build synergies that foster a true integral education <and>  develop projects of great national and international scope, which are able to nourish dialogue, solidarity, and sharing. Many of these aspects are identified today with the third mission of Athenaeums, which must become increasingly a qualifying and constitutive element and not only an appendix of the two traditional pillars of teaching and research.

Moreover, thinking also of the celebrations of the centenary of the history of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, we cannot but recall that since its origins it has been characterized by the mission of forming Catholic personalities capable of influencing the history of the country and of contributing to the mission of the Church. This objective, which so excited Father Gemelli and the protagonists of the first hour, has certainly not failed. Rather, for many reasons, more personalities serve today who with a wise heart, enlightened mind, industrious hands, and solid faith are capable of accompanying humanity towards a sustainable and better future.

The Holy Father expresses his heartfelt and sincere encouragement to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, especially in this academic year in which its hundred years of life are celebrated, and he is grateful for the precious work it carries out, in tune with the great commitment of the whole universal Church to “Rebuild the Global Educational Pact.” His heartfelt hope is that the mission of the Athenaeum of Italian Catholics will be carried out increasingly in tune with this plan, because “never as now, there is a need to unite efforts in an ample educational alliance to form mature persons, capable of overcoming fragmentations and oppositions and of building the fabric of relations for a more fraternal humanity” (Message for the Launching of the Educational Pact, September 12, 2019).

Wishing to contribute to the support of worthy students but with fewer possibilities, His Holiness does not want his contribution to be lacking to this meritorious Institute of Higher Studies. While he assures his closeness and his paternal support, Pope Francis asks to be remembered in prayer. To Your Excellency, to the Rector, to the General Ecclesiastical Assistant, to the members of the Toniolo Institute, to the distinguished Professors to the Technical-administrative personnel, and to all the students, he imparts his heartfelt special Blessing

I take advantage of the circumstance to confirm my distinct sense of respect for your Most Reverend Excellency.

Devoted in the Lord,

Pietro Cardinal Parolin

Secretary of State

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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